Separating Fantasy Fact From Fiction

Separating Fantasy Fact From Fiction


Separating Fantasy Fact From Fiction


Week 1 of the preseason – blessedly – has come and gone, and draft preparations are ramping up across the fantasy nation.

That all means there’s no better time than right here, right now to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff , the rumor from reality – the fantasy fact from fantasy fiction.

So, in hurry-up offense mode, here goes . . .

The new breed of running QBs is taking away from their own running backs

Sounds like a reasonable expectation, right?

But after compiling a list of the quarterbacks who have topped 300 yards rushing in a season over the past five years and then looking at the numbers compiled by the corresponding team’s starting running back(s), it quickly becomes evident that there’s not a lot of fantasy cannibalization going on.

Not in the least.

In total, QBs have rushed for 300 or more yards in a season 16 times since 2008, and all 16 teams also have featured a 1,000-yard rusher or a running-back combo that’s combined for 1,000 yards.

Moreover, 14 of the 16 teams have had at least 1,200 RB rushing yards and 11 of them have topped 1,300.

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For a snapshot, take all five such teams from this past season – the Redskins with RGIII and his QB league-leading 815 rushing yards, the Panthers with Cam Newton (741), the Seahawks and Russell Wilson (489), the 49ers with Colin Kaeprnick (415) and the Eagles and Michael Vick (332). With RBs Alfred Morris (1,613 for the Skins) and Marshawn Lynch (1,590 in Seattle) leading the way, those five squads received an average of 1,415 yards from their starting running backs.

In reality, it seems like rushing QBs help – not hurt – their own RBs with opposing defenses having to pick their poison, so to speak, especially when it comes to the read-option.

And, for this assumption, that leads to a verdict of . . .  FICTION.

Running backs are the rookies most ready to make fantasy impacts

Putting this theorem to the test was relatively simple.

Assuming a 10-team, standard-scoring league, we carved out the starters – the top-10 QBs, top-20 RBs, top-20 wide receivers and top-10 tight ends – in terms of total yearly fantasy points from each of the past 10 seasons, cherry-picked the rookies from the bunch and tallied the respective totals.

What was revealed wasn’t all that surprising – even if the distribution of the numbers was.

Only two tight ends made the list, along with four QBs – bolstered mightily by the talented trio of RGIII, Wilson and Andrew Luck in 2012 – and seven wideouts. Meanwhile, a whopping 16 running backs have finished the season ranked as fantasy starters in basic standard-scoring 10-team leagues since 2003 – or three more than the other three main positions combined.

And in all but three seasons – 2011, ’10 and ’04 – over the past decade has a rookie runner failed to finish among the year-end fantasy top 20, making this one a clear . . . FACT

Even for some of the top fantasy rookies, though, sophomore slumps are real

There was another simple methodology to test this one.

Minus the six from 2012, of course, we took the 23 top rookie fantasy finishes detailed above and then compared their follow-up fantasy seasons with their debut campaigns.

The result?

Thirteen of the 23 saw their fantasy points decrease in their sophomore season, including eight of the 13 since 2008. That “slump” list includes fantasy heavyweights such as Newton (411 fantasy points in 2011 to 323 in ’12), Matt Forte (244 to 164 from ’08 to ’09) and Maurice Jones-Drew (228 to 172 from ’06 to ’07).

The conclusion?

Now, hey, it’s not as clear cut as some of the others here, but we’ll still label this one a . . .  FACT.

Quarterbacks make for the safest first-round draft picks

Again assuming a standard-scoring 10-team league, the first step was to access at the past decade of first-round average draft positions (ADP) at and then assign the season-ending, value-based drafting (VBD) numbers to all 100 selections to determine which picks panned out (a top-10 VBD ranking) and which didn’t.

Breaking up those 100 picks into their respective positions, we find that:

  • Of the 18 quarterbacks selected, five (27.7 percent) finished that same season with a  top-10 VBD
  • Of the 74 RBs with top-10 ADPs, 26 (35.1 percent) wound up with top-10 VBDs
  • Of the seven WRs, only one – Calvin Johnson in 2012 – also finished with a top-10 VBD.

So while the quarterbacks definitely graded out higher than the wideouts, they still trailed the running backs, making this assumption a case of fantasy . . . FICTION.

We are in the midst of the golden age of fantasy tight ends

Going back to the just discussed draft stats, you’ll notice that no tight end made it into any season’s ADP top 10 over the past decade, but the position’s fantasy point totals are most definitely on the rise.

The thing is, though, that rise hasn’t necessarily been reflected at the top of the TE rankings.

Aside from the record-shattering 2011 seasons enjoyed by Rob Gronkowski (241 fantasy points) and Jimmy Graham (197), the point totals of the top tight ends have been fairly equitable over the past 10 years.

But the quantity of productive, draftable fantasy TEs has climbed markedly and is reflected in the point totals of the No. 10 and 15-ranked players at the position.

In 2003, the 10th-ranked fantasy tight end finished with 66 points and No. 15 finished with 55. Five years later, those figures were up to 87 and 69, and this past season they were at 105 and 85, respectively.

It’s been a steady progression overall at the position and given the recency of Gronk’s and Graham’s milestone seasons, this statement qualifies as a fantasy . . . FACT.

Despite the long-standing axiom, it pays not to wait until the final two rounds to draft a team defense

We’ve saved our most obvious and most conclusive statement for last, and any fantasy GM of more than a season or two knows how this is going to turn out.

Still, the numbers are so revealing, they’re almost shocking.

Here’s really all there is to know: Of the 25 team defenses selected in the top five of fantasy drafts over the past five seasons, only three of them have gone to finish their respective seasons among the top-five scoring D’s.

The team defenses that were drafted first in each of the five seasons finished 17th on average among the top year-end fantasy units, while the top-scoring fantasy D’s were drafted, on average 11th overall at the start of the year.

In 2012, the top five ADP team defenses (49ers, Ravens, Texans, Steelers, Packers) finished with an average ranking of 16.4 among the top-scoring units, while the top-five highest-scoring D’s (Bears, Patriots, Broncos, Chargers, Titans) ironically had the same average draft position (16.4) overall.

Enough said. This is a work of  . . .  FICTION.


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